BALTIMORE (AP) — The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other groups can join a court fight over bay restoration efforts, a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Thursday.

The bay advocacy group, other environmental organizations and associations representing sewer authorities asked to side with the federal Environmental Protection Agency as defendants in the suit.

The American Farm Bureau Federation sued the EPA in January over the stricter federally led effort and other groups have since joined the challenge. Critics say it is too far-reaching and will burden states with huge costs.

U.S. District Sylvia H. Rambo said the groups may help settle the complex case.

“In fact, given the complexity and voluminous size of the administrative record, which includes scientific models, the court finds that the presence of the intervenors may serve to clarify issues and, perhaps, contribute to resolution of this matter,” Rambo said in her order.

A telephone call by The Associated Press seeking comment from the American Farm Bureau Federation was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Foundation attorney Jon Mueller said the groups were “looking forward to arguing this case in order to ensure that Bay
restoration moves forward, and that all do their part to reduce pollution.”

The other environmental groups joining the foundation in the motion were Penn Future, Defenders of Wildlife, the Jefferson County Public Service District, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, and the National Wildlife Federation. The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents sewer authorities nationwide, also sought to intervene with state sewer authority associations. The head of the association said in May that his organization has some concerns about the EPA’s strategy, but is much more concerned with attempts by the plaintiffs to walk away from the process.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker accused the plaintiffs on Thursday of trying to halt the restoration process.

“The effort to derail Bay restoration must be stopped, here and now,” Baker said. “We are pleased we can be part of defending the Bay restoration effort and are confident that the court will uphold the public’s right to clean water.”

The EPA’s strategy puts everyone in the six-state bay watershed on a “pollution diet” with daily limits for how much sediment and runoff can come from each area. Pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer, auto and power plant emissions cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms once they reach the bay, creating dead zones where sea life can’t live.

Farmers and agriculture interests are concerned about the strategy because agriculture is the single largest source of bay pollutants, according to the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay model. While agriculture has made gains in reducing bay pollution, the strategy calls for even more reductions from all sectors.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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